« PreviousContinue »
these. The matter in this species of composition is borrowed from some well known transaction, and described in such terms as connect the whole with another transaction more sublime and interesting. The forty-fifth Psalm is a poetical description of the mystical union betwixt Christ and the Church: the plan of the allegory, and the images which occur in the course of it, are much the same with those in the Canticles. The marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh might be the ground of the allegory; but in some passages the composition rises as it were out of itself; leaving the literal sense, and adopting such terms as can be accommodated only to the objects of the mystic allusion. Thus at the seventh verse, the expressions drop the subject of the throne and kingdom of Solomon, and point directly to those of the Messiah-Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. And again, at verse 12, the King, to whom the bride is presented, is expressly styled the LORD GOD, the object of ado
The learned author of the Prelections has given some cautions in regard to the explication of a mystic allegory, which deserve to be considered. He advises, first, that we should be careful not to urge our interpretations too far, nor to extend them to all the minute particulars of the allegory: and secondly, that we should observe the tenor of the Scripture itself, and conform as strictly as possible to the explications there delivered; so that the author of the Scripture may be his own interpreter. But let me observe, that the same prudence, which requires us not to urge our explications too far, will also direct us not to be over cautious, lest they should be empty, spiritless, and unaffecting. Where the whole is an allegory, the parts also are allegorical. If the King in the forty-fifth Psalm is Christ, and the Queen is the Church, then the Oil of gladness, the Myrrh, Aloes, and Cassia, and all other articles of the imagery, have their peculiar signification, and are subordinate to the general design of e composition. Whether we can ascertain the sense of every particular, is another question. Some passages will of course be very obscure, and others utterly unintelligible to us at this distance of time and place.
There can be no harm however in attempting to illustrate them, and many useful observations may occur, provided we adhere to the general design of the whole, and use the Scripture as our guide in accommodating the several parts.
These are the rules by which I have directed myself in the following discourse; not intending to compose a rigid commentary, but rather a meditation on a scriptural subject; in which sort of composition the writer may innocently be indulged with some degree of latitude; which, though it may excite the contempt of the fastidious critic, may afford both instruction and entertainment to a pious reader: and then the end of the author will be answered.
SENSE AND SIGNIFICATION
I. THE spirit of God communicates to the mind of man the knowledge of spiritual things, by means of a certain resemblance, which the Creator hath wisely ordained between the objects of sense and the objects of faith.
Hence it is that the scriptures abound so much with metaphorical allusions to the natural creation. Sometimes they refer us to the heavens and firmament, to the sun, the moon, and the stars; which, in the emblematical language of divine revelation, are but other names for Christ, the church, and the saints of God; these latter being illuminated by Christ, as the moon and stars shine by a light borrowed from the sun. At other times they refer us to the earth, and the different seasons of the year; to the winds and the waters, and to all the various productions of the
ground, from gold down to miry clay; from the lofty cedar to the lowly hyssop; from the vine blessed with a profitable increase, down to worthless thorns and briars nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. Other images are borrowed from the body of man, with all its members, honourable or dishonourable, from the head to the foot; its strength or weakness, its health or sickness, its life or death; through all of which, and innumerable other things that are objects of sense, the divine spirit publishes and explains, to such as have an ear, the things of the invisible world.
But of all the sacred symbols, none are so delightful to the understanding as those taken from the more beautiful appearances of nature; where the eye of the mind receives its instruction through those objects with which the eye of the body is best pleased.
II. Of this sort is that description of the Spring in the song of Solomon-For lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth ; the time of the singing of birds is come; and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell*.
First there is that pleasing reflection, that we have escaped the bitterness of the winter with its cold and storms, and its dreary uncomfortable prospects. It is no small advantage to the Spring, that it succeeds the winter, and finds us ready to receive it, earnestly wishing for, and expecting a warmer and brighter season. And when it comes, with what transport do we look back upon the retiring winter; rejoicing that it is past, and that the rain is over and gone; that
Cant. chap. ii. 10, &c.